Kent scientists 'help save UK pint of beer from climate change'

Emily Collins
Picture by BBC/Kevin Church
Dr Helen Cockerton

A collaboration between Dr Helen Cockerton from the University’s School of Biosciences and local hop breeder Dr Klara Hajdu (Wye Hops) is attracting media attention for a project they hope will result in new hop varieties which are more resilient to drought, pests and diseases through genetic informed breeding.

The five-year project, which also involves National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB)the British Hop AssociationThe Hop Plant Company and LGC genomics, has been awarded over half a million pounds by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to develop environmentally resilient ‘super hop’ varieties.

Media coverage so far includes a national BBC story (also broadcast on BBC News) and articles in Kent Online, Country Living, Farming Life and Beer Today. Dr Cockerton and Dr Hajdu also spoke to a number of BBC regional radio stations about the project, including BBC Radio Kent, BBC Sussex, BBC Surrey, BBC Tees, BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Lincolnshire. With BBC World Service covering the news story, it has also been aired on US radio stations such as Hawaii public radio and WLRN radio in Miami. It was also picked up by the UK’s Heart FM network.

Dr Helen Cockerton (School of Biosciences, right) in discussion with Pallab Ghosh (BBC Science Correspondent, left).

Earlier in March, the Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Mark Spencer, visited the University and Wye Hops to learn more about the project. Dr Cockerton gave the Minister a tour of Kent’s Biotech Hub where he was given the opportunity to smell and taste different hop varieties and the beer they produce.

Dr Cockerton said: ‘We’ve been delighted to share the story of our research with such a wide audience. The tools we will develop through this project will enable us to generate better hops faster than we could achieve through using traditional approaches alone, which will play an important role in future proofing the UK’s hop and brewing industries.’

Dr Helen Cockerton, Mark Spencer and Professor Shane Weller in the School of Biosciences labs

Dr Helen Cockerton, DEFRA Minister Mark Spencer and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Shane Weller in the School of Biosciences laboratories.


Pallab Ghosh sampling beer produced by Eddie Gadd (Head brewer at Ramsgate Brewery, centre) from experimental hops bred by Dr Klara Hajdu (Wye Hops, left). Filming took place in K Bar at the University’s Canterbury campus.